Mother’s Day and your spiritual jewelry

Listen to mp3 file
6th Sunday of Easter, Year B: May 13, 2012
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; Ps 98; 1 John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17

As I hear these words of our Lord Jesus on this Mother’s Day weekend, I am struck by how closely they parallel the structure and pattern of love within our human families. For he says: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you… as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love… [so] if you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love.”

Christ is speaking out of his relationship with God the Father: a relationship that has existed from all eternity between these two Divine Persons of the Blessed Trinity. He is telling us about his Father and about their relationship; and he is inviting us to be drawn into that relationship, to share in his own divine life.

And isn’t that rather parallel to our human families? The family is formed from the love of a man and woman—who join themselves as husband and wife in the indissoluble partnership of marriage. From their love, they conceive and give birth to children, who are then embraced and cared for by their love. And how often through the years might the mother help the children to get to know the father better and draw closer to him, whom she has known and loved for many years; and likewise, the father may help the children draw closer to their mother. —somewhat like our Lord Jesus helps us to draw closer to God the Father.

There is a parallel, and an intersection, between the human family and the divine family. And, indeed, in Christ, the family is transformed and elevated. New dimensions and a new mission are added. How does that work?

We heard St. John speak of those who are begotten by God and know God. How does that happen? In baptism—as our Lord Jesus himself spoke to Nicodemus about being born again or born from above, through being born of water and Spirit. (John 3:3-8) In baptism we are born again as adopted sons and daughters of God. And when an adopted son of God marries an adopted daughter of God—when a baptized man and woman marry—it is more than a natural marriage: it is two faithful disciples of Christ, chosen and appointed by Christ himself, joining with each other to live out that calling together. And when they have a child and bring that child to baptism, it is their own child that the mother and father hand over to baptism; but it is an adopted child of God that they receive back into their arms.

And so it is that, at the same time that they are a family of mother and father and child, they are also more than this: a community of God’s adopted children, a community of Christ’s disciples, charged and committed to helping each other to follow him faithfully all the way to heaven.

Thus the Church tells us in the Catechism that “believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith”; and the Second Vatican Council … calls the family the [domestic Church]. For it is in the bosom of the family that parents are “by word and example … the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children.” (CCC 1656)

It is mothers and fathers who first teach these littlest disciples about God and how to speak to him in prayer; who tell them about Jesus and what he has done for us; who take them to Mass; who give them their first lessons in the love of God through their own generous and sacrificial love each day. It is “a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity.” (CCC 1666)

And those lessons don’t only go one direction; but soon the little disciples will be encouraging the bigger ones as well. One mother told me about the time that she was house-hunting in a new city, and it wasn’t going well at all. She started crying, there with her children in the hotel room; and her 10-year-old son read to her from the Gideon Bible that was there, and she received comfort and insight into what to do next.

Another once discovered that one of her children had gotten into her jewelry box and broken an inexpensive but meaningful piece that her husband had used when he proposed to her. Overwhelmed, she yelled at him; but then she realized what she was doing and apologized to our Lord and to her children. Her seven-year-old daughter, whom she calls “the little nun who inhabits my house,” told her that she shouldn’t yell at her children for breaking her jewelry because her children are her jewelry.

And indeed they are—your spiritual jewelry that will last forever. So it is when you raise the children of God for him; so it is when the family is a group of disciples, big and small, all following Christ together. And your faithfulness is repaid even now.

Thus—the Catechism tells us—the home is the first school of Christian life … Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous—even repeated—forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one’s life. (CCC 1657)

Our Lord Jesus said, “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” A mother lives this out each day, in countless acts of sacrificial love. The fruit of her life’s vocation truly is fruit that will remain: the raising up of sons and daughters of God who will live forever, radiant in his Kingdom, her spiritual jewelry. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. (Prov 31:28) And greatest praise of all will come when she hears the Lord himself say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant… Come, share your master’s joy.” (Matt 25:21)

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